Newswise — MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University is partnering with two Turkish universities to pursue groundbreaking automotive research and development surrounding the plug-in hybrid technology developed by an MTSU professor.

MTSU has signed a letter of intent with Meliksah University and Firat University in Turkey to pursue an academic and industrial partnership to further develop Dr. Charles Perry’s retrofit wheel-hub motor. Perry has gained international attention for his technology, which has the potential to cut a vehicle’s fuel consumption by half or more by turning it into a hybrid powered by gasoline and electricity.

Perry, who is the Russell Chair of Excellence in Manufacturing in MTSU’s Department of Engineering Technology, traveled to Meliksah University in Kayseri, Turkey, recently to secure the agreement. Joining him were Dr. Andrienne Friedli, director of MTSU’s Center for Advancement of Research and Scholarship, and Paul Martin, a long-time MTSU advocate and benefactor.

The letter of intent was signed by Meliksah University Rector Mahmut Mat. The trip follows a memorandum of understanding initiated by MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee two years ago for academic and cultural exchange with Meliksah.

MTSU officials believe the partnership will facilitate the development of Perry’s motor into a working invention that is ready to be licensed to automotive manufacturers throughout the world. As a part of the agreement, Meliksah University will obtain an industrial partner for the project, allowing the university to obtain a research grant through the Turkish government’s equivalent of the National Science Foundation.

“Turkey has the second highest petroleum cost in the world,” said Paul Martin, whose business contacts in Turkey paved the way for McPhee’s initial agreement with Meliksah. “The government there is willing to invest in fuel conservation technology.”

Perry invented a novel method of converting a standard gasoline-powered vehicle into a plug-in hybrid powered by a combination of gas and electricity with minor alteration of the vehicle’s rear wheel hub. Perry, who had 40 patents in a 28-year career with IBM before coming to MTSU, has also invented a switched reluctance motor design for use as a wheel-hub motor.

A wheel-hub motor is just that — a motor attached, or retrofitted, into the rear wheel structure of a vehicle. Perry’s motor can be retrofitted to passenger cars, light trucks and fleet vehicles to conserve fuel and reduce fuel consumption as much as 50 percent. Perry said the competitive advantage of his new motor is that “we don’t cut, weld or modify; we just bolt on this motor to the rear wheels of the vehicle.”

The wheel-hub motors in each rear wheel provide additional electric traction to the vehicle from energy stored in a battery, thus reducing the amount of fuel used by the main engine. The battery can be charged from an electrical outlet and is also charged during braking when the wheel-hub motors are in regenerative mode.

Meliksah is well regarded for its research capabilities in electrical and mechanical engineering and has a close relationship with the automotive industry in Turkey. By partnering with Meliksah, MTSU can tap into the infrastructure needed for the actual development of Perry’s new motor, officials said.

MTSU will be a beneficiary of any sponsorship and licensing agreements resulting from an industrial partnership.

“We are very fortunate to secure this agreement with Meliksah University,” McPhee said. “In addition to the technological initiative, the agreement allows for a global academic experience, with MTSU students studying in Turkey, and students from Meliksah studying here.”

The letter of intent also includes Firat University in eastern Turkey. Firat’s automotive department has experts in the field of switched-reluctance motors. Ideally, according to Perry, the prototype of the new switched-reluctance wheel-hub motor will be ready in a year.

Such fuel conservation technology could be a boon to Turkey, whose petroleum comes from the Middle East and Russia — two areas not immune to instability.

“Turkey is like the Detroit of Europe,” said Friedli, the director of MTSU’s Center for Advancement of Research and Scholarship. “Many European automobile companies manufacture cars there, and because of the high price of gasoline, people in the region are already spending $1,000 to retrofit their cars to use cheaper fuels.”

The potential economic impact of this new technology is significant: If the new motor were retrofitted to only 10 percent of the existing vehicles in Turkey, it would save the country $4 billion annually in fuel costs, according to Friedli.

Longer-term implications for the state of Tennessee are positive as well, as Tennessee is the home of several original equipment automotive manufacturers — General Motors, Nissan and Volkswagen all have plants in Tennessee.

Meliksah, founded in 2008, is one of four universities serving the Anatolia region of Turkey. The private university is known as a research center with an emphasis on mechanical engineering, science and economics.

Firat, a state university founded in 1975, is also known as a research center with a focus on engineering, science and technology. It is located in Elazig, Turkey.